Paul Bowles Biography


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Paul Bowles was born to Rena Winnewisser Bowles, a homemaker, and Claude Dietz Bowles, a dentist, on December 30, 1910, in the borough of Queens, New York City. His father was, as Bowles later recalled, a bad-tempered man, easily given to child beatings to enforce his will. Perhaps it was fortunate, then, that Paul’s father was so addicted to his golf game that he was away from home on weekends whenever the weather permitted. Rena Bowles excused her husband’s child abuse, but she showered attention on her son, devoting considerable time to reading poetry and playing music for him. She realized Paul had artistic proclivities and wanted to encourage them.

Like many creative young people who are abused, however, Paul retreated into himself, refusing to socialize with other children and, out of spite, beating weaker classmates symbolically to get revenge on those who beat him at school. His life was hellish, but it did encourage him to develop his creative powers.

After finishing secondary school in New York in 1928, he attended New York’s School of Design and Liberal Arts for a matter of months, then went on to the University of Virginia; he stayed there only six months, however, before leaving for Paris in 1929. He went to Paris at the behest of famous composer Aaron Copland, and in Paris he discovered not only what pursuits he would follow but also where he would spend most of the remainder of his life: in Morocco. It would take another trip home to New York, then another semester of studies at the University of Virginia before he would become a true expatriate. The restless young man traveled to Berlin in 1931 and 1932, where he studied music under another great composer, Virgil Thomson.

Nevertheless, it was Bowles’s return to Paris in 1933 (he would stay there for a year) that gave him his twin missions in life: He would compose serious music and he would write. While he was there, either Gertrude Stein, American expatriate novelist, or her lover, Alice B. Toklas (the story varies), advised him to find the perpetual summer weather he craved as well as the splendid isolation from Western ways he also sought by moving to Morocco. In 1937, he turned to writing music in Tangier, Morocco, a small but highly international city across from Spain on the Mediterranean Sea. Although he turned his attention to composing scores for Tennessee Williams’s Summer and Smoke...

(The entire section is 988 words.)

Paul Bowles Biography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Paul Bowles is an innovator of the first order, whose masterful works deserve far more critical attention than has been given them. This slighting of Bowles, as some critics suggest, may be attributable to his strong anti-American bias, to his choice of locales (“too foreign,” some say), or to his pessimistic view of human nature and human destiny. His works, while difficult and painful to read at times, offer readers a window on a strange, bizarre world that no other writer has offered.

Paul Bowles Biography

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Paul Frederick Bowles’s life spans much of the twentieth century, but the events that dominated the lives of his contemporaries in the United States had little effect on him. After attending the University of Virginia, Bowles went to Europe, where his literary career began with the publication of some youthful poems in the journal Transitions. During the 1930’s, Bowles drifted from New York to Berlin, Paris, and Mexico. In New York and Berlin, he studied music with Aaron Copland. His musical career was furthered in Paris, where he studied with Virgil Thomson. Also in Paris, Bowles met Gertrude Stein, to whom he attributed the initial impetus for his subsequent writing career. Stein criticized his poetry and suggested that he devote himself to music instead, but she also urged him to go to Morocco. He took her advice, and eventually Morocco became his permanent home.

In 1938, Bowles married Jane Auer (Jane Bowles), a playwright and novelist. They traveled to diverse places such as Mexico, Central America, and Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka), journeys that Bowles recalls in his travel essays, collected in Their Heads Are Green and Their Hands Are Blue (1963). During the 1940’s, Bowles composed music for ballet and opera (The Wind Remains), as well as incidental music for drama, including Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie (pr. 1944). When Jane Bowles was working on her novel Two Serious Ladies (1943),...

(The entire section is 486 words.)

Paul Bowles Biography

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Paul Frederic Bowles spent most of his adult life living abroad, in permanent exile, mostly in Morocco, although for brief periods he also lived in France, Mexico, and South America. Admonished as a young man by his disapproving father that he could not expect merely to sit around and loaf as a writer when at home, Paul Bowles found places where he could sit and invite his soul.

He was born in the Jamaica section of New York City, the only child of a dentist and a mother who was a former schoolteacher. He was a precocious child and began writing at an early age. By the time he was in grade school, he had also begun composing music, a passion that occupied him more than did writing until after World War I. Immediately after high school, he attended very briefly the School of Design and Liberal Arts before enrolling in the fall of 1928 as a freshman at the University of Virginia, a choice made primarily because it was the school attended by Edgar Allan Poe. In March, he left the university and ran off to Paris, where he was already known as the writer whose poem “Spire Song” had been published in Eugène Jolas’s little magazine transition. Bowles returned home the next fall and went to work for Dutton’s bookstore while trying to write a novel in his spare time. In the spring, he returned to Virginia to complete his freshman year, at which point he ended forever his college career.

By 1929, Bowles had met and been encouraged by American composer Aaron Copland to pursue a career as a composer by returning to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger, which he did in the spring of 1931. His second Paris sojourn began his literary life when he met and became friends with Gertrude Stein, who took him under her ample wing and tutored him in writing. It was Stein’s companion Alice B. Toklas who suggested that Bowles and Copland, who had joined him abroad, live someplace warm, and she suggested Morocco, to which the two composers moved in the late summer of 1931. It was the beginning of Bowles’s love affair with North Africa and his life as a writer:...

(The entire section is 850 words.)

Paul Bowles Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Even as a child, Paul Bowles (bohlz), the son of a dentist father and schoolteacher mother, demonstrated talent in many areas. He had begun writing seriously by the age of seventeen, and in 1928 his surrealist poetry was published in the Paris literary magazine Transition. Seventeen years were to elapse, however, before he published the first of the fiction for which he became known.

After finishing high school and attending one semester at the University of Virginia, Bowles left for Paris in 1929 on a six-month adventure. He returned to New York to study composition with Aaron Copland, who recognized and nurtured Bowles’s musical ability. In 1931, Bowles met Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas in Paris....

(The entire section is 621 words.)

Paul Bowles Biography

(Short Stories for Students)

One of the twentieth century’s most enigmatic writers, Paul Frederick Bowles was born December 30, 1910, in New York, New York, the only...

(The entire section is 484 words.)